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Voters Head to Polls in Argentina Presidential Election - 2003-04-27


Polls opened Sunday in Argentina as the country votes for a new president. It is expected to be the closest election in Argentine history.

Argentines are getting their names and numbers doubled checked Sunday as they line up at the polls to pick a new president.

This is the country's first presidential election since the political and economic chaos of December 2001, when the country defaulted on a multi-billion-dollar debt and devalued its currency.

Argentines have demanded political change, but the three leading candidates are all well-known political figures, most notably ex-president Carlos Menem. He is in a statistical dead heat with fellow Peronist Nestor Kirchner and free-market economist Ricardo Lopez Murphy.

Osvaldo Gallera voted at an elementary school near his home in the Buenos Aires suburb of Belgrano. He says that while much has not changed on the political landscape, there is one candidate who he thinks can turn around the Argentina's misfortunes.

"All the names are the same that we have been seeing over and over," he said. "But there is a candidate who is somewhat new, Lopez Murphy ... he has new people and a new party. I think he brings oxygen to our country.

Argentines are looking for fresh ideas; the country is mired in its worst economic crisis in history. Hunger, unemployment and crime have all risen drastically in recent years, all issues that the new president will have to address.

The results may still be several weeks down the road, as no candidate is expected to get the 45 percent of the vote needed to avoid a second round runoff, which would be held May 18.